Teck Partners with the UN to Aid Indigenous Women in Northern Chile

Although progress has been made toward achieving gender equality under UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) five, much work remains to be done. The rights of women and girls for equality in education and opportunities—as well as freedom from violence and discrimination—are essential and integral to all aspects of sustainability. Women and girls comprise more than half of the global population and the problems they face affect families, communities and societies throughout the world.

With its vast copper supply, Chile ranks as one of Latin America’s most economically advanced nations. Yet the emerging market lags far behind the region in women’s rights and equality. This problem is especially challenging for women of the isolated, Indigenous communities of northern Chile, who live amid the planet’s most generous reserves of the red metal.

One International Copper Association (ICA) member, in particular, is dedicated to making a pivotal difference for Native Chilean women. Teck Resources has partnered with UN Women, the United Nations organization that advances gender equality internationally, to support Indigenous women in Northern Chile through investments totaling $2 million.

UN Women and Chile’s Indigenous Women

UN Women coordinates and promotes all the UN’s work to accomplish gender equality in all agreements from the 2030 SDG Agenda. It works with governments and civil society organizations to promote the adoption of laws, policies and services that fostering gender equality. UN Women seeks to advance women’s leadership and participation, to involve women in peacebuilding and to end violence against women.

Over the past three decades, women in Chile have made gains in education and employment. The country elected Michelle Bachelet, its first woman president, in 2006. However, employment disparities remain in the country, as 74 percent of men—compared to 47.7 percent of women—and 80 percent of Indigenous men—compared to 57 percent of Indigenous women—participate in the workforce. Women continue to confront gender bias in both legal frameworks and societal practices.

As elsewhere in the region, Chilean women face serious barriers to land tenure, which leave them economically vulnerable, despite their growing roles in farming and food production. Men receive preference in the distribution of inheritance and marital property. Women have smaller farms with lower quality soil and less access to credit, technical assistance and other training. Meanwhile, seasonal agricultural workers in rural areas endure precarious conditions and receive limited social and medical services.

Indigenous women in Chile face especially severe socioeconomic problems. According to government statistics, notably, over 30 percent of Chile’s Indigenous population of 1.6 million lives in poverty, as opposed to nearly 20 percent of non-Indigenous peoples.

A Class by Itself: Investing in Chile’s Future

To address these complex challenges, Teck provided a founding investment of $1 million to UN Women to establish Originarias, Programa para el Empoderamiento de Mujeres Indígenas (Program for the Empowerment of Indigenous Women) in 2016. This initiative works to support Indigenous women who live in the Coquimbo, Tarapacá, Antofagasta and Atacama regions of northern Chile by setting up a learning center with classes on entrepreneurship, business skills and other economic advancement. Home to about 30 percent of global copper supplies, the Andean nation’s north hosts Teck’s Carmen de Andacollo and Quebrada Blanca projects.

Teck is focused on helping empower women and Indigenous peoples where we operate so they can fully share in the economic benefits created by responsible resource development.”

– Don Lindsay, President and CEO, Teck

The Originarias initiative began, from 2016 to 2018, with an extensive study on the conditions Indigenous women in Northern Chile face and possible program models that could help them achieve a better quality of life. From the start of the project, UN Women prioritized the input and ideas of the women themselves to guide program development. Analysts working on behalf of Originarias designed and administered a survey to 250 women in the region. These Indigenous women overwhelmingly cited education and training as key to enabling better socioeconomic outcomes.

With a second investment by Teck of $1 million in April 2018, UN Women is developing the curriculum of the Originarias Leadership School. UN Women has engaged Inclusion y Equidad (Inclusion and Equity) a Latin American consulting firm, to direct and implement the curriculum. This Santiago-based team specializes in research, program development and monitoring and evaluation to support development and gender equality.  

Originarias will sponsor a pilot program to promote networking and training to improve socioeconomic conditions and build leadership capacity for the women. The school will underscore the importance of Indigenous cultural traditions and women’s rights in all program activities.

Drawing on Cultural Diversity

UN Women models the Originarias program on the experiences of the Warmi Sayajsunqo Association of Abra Pampa, a town in Northern Argentina’s remote Jujuy province, also in the Andean region. This group has 3,600 associates in 79 different regional Indigenous communities. It assists Indigenous women community members to gain access to qualification courses in micro loans, credit management and accounting.

Originarias, meanwhile, further draws its ideas on the importance of networking and collective action from the work of the Indigenous Women’s Organization Experience of the National Organization of Indigenous Andean and Amazonian Women of Peru (ONAMIAP), a national women’s organization based in Peru. ONAMIAP bolsters the ability of grassroots organizations to contribute to policy initiatives and supports programs to improve opportunities for women to serve in the government at the local, regional and national levels.

Chile is one of the countries of Latin America where we are working hard to strengthen the leadership of indigenous women, and thanks to the Originarias programme we are expecting to be one step ahead in this challenge.”

– Luiza Carvalho, UN Women Regional Director, Americas

Luiza Carvalho, Regional Director of UN Women for Latin America, Don Lindsay, Teck President and CEO, and María Inés Salamanca, Representative of the UN Women Programmes Office in Chile, along with members of Teck´s Board of Directors joined a ceremony in April 2018 to mark the expansion of the partnership and program.

Answering a Call to Action

Achieving gender equality within the 11-year timeframe of the SDGs requires bold steps to target the pervasive sources of discrimination that women face.

Indigenous Chilean women in Northern Chile, who live among the most abundant greatest copper reserves on the planet, confront deeply rooted social, cultural and economic inequalities, gender-based violence and lower educational levels.

Teck and its partners are addressing these problems through a potent combination of education and networking, with a focus on business skills. By fostering a strong learning and capacity building space in one of the nation’s most isolated regions, the miner and its partners are decisively filling an important gap for one of the nation’s most vulnerable groups.

Given the myriad challenges confronting Chile’s Indigenous women, the importance of Teck’s contribution to Originarias and its school come at a critical time. This initiative will positively impact local Indigenous women for many years to come.

About UN Women

UN Women is the United Nations organization that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment while focusing on women’s leadership and political participation. As a global defender of women and girls, UN Women was set up to accelerate the progress enabling the quality of life improvement for women while addressing their specific needs worldwide.

About Teck Resources Ltd.

Headquartered in Vancouver, Teck is Canada’s largest diversified resource firm. Dedicated to responsible mining and mineral development across jurisdictions, it has a major focus on copper, in addition to steelmaking coal, zinc and energy. Teck has four operating copper mines in Canada, Chile and Peru, and copper development projects in North and South America. Teck’s Carmen de Andacollo and Quebrada Blanca operations are in Coquimbo and Tarapacá, both in northern Chile. NuevaUnión, a 50-50 Joint Venture (JV) between Teck and Goldcorp, lies in northern Chile’s Atacama region.

About Originarias

Since 2016, UN Women – with Teck’s support – has been implementing Originarias in Northern Chile, an initiative that contributing to economic empowerment and social participation of indigenous women. Originarias effectively consolidates tangible progress made on equitable representation, leading to a greater autonomy and a better quality of life for targeted communities.

About The Copper Alliance®

The Copper Alliance is a network of regional copper centers and their industry-leading members. It is responsible for guiding policy and strategy and for funding international initiatives and reputation-building activities. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the organization has offices in three primary regions: Europe, Asia, and North America. Copper Alliance programs and partnerships are executed in more than 100 countries through its regional offices and country-level copper promotion centers.